Independent medical expert answers
on psychiatry and psychology

Learn to Say NO!

Written by: Martin Winkler

First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest version: 29 Apr 2012.


There are ways to learn how to say an assertive NO. A simple and direct "NO, I am not able to help you with that" is the best solution. If you add an explanation it should be kept simple.


How do I learn to say "NO"? Tell me more about learning to say NO! Do you recommend confidence-assertiveness training?


Learning to say NO

Saying NO can be very difficult. People with low self-esteem very often have a lack of assertiveness and think they have to meet the expectations of everyone. It is very hard for them to set limits with others. They sometimes feel ashamed or guilty if they would say NO. But to do things against your will and possibilities will end up in feeling used and resentful.

A simple and direct "NO, I am not able to help you with that" is the best solution. If you want to (have to) give an explanation you should keep it simple:"NO, I have already made an another appointment for this time" or "NO, sorry. I am afraid I have to decline because I have no spare time."

Other ways of saying NO:

To say an assertive NO you should: If someone makes a request it is fair to ask for time to think it over. The decision should be up to you, but sometimes it is difficult to say NO right now. You can try to use an empathic NO, if you would have helped under different circumstances:

"Sorry, no. I would have kept your cat next weekend. But my husband and I will be off for visit. I know it will be hard to find someone to take care off the cat. I will try to help you next time." Remember : Saying NO is a very honourable response. You have the right to say "No"!

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